Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
Sat June 8, 2013
Big Steaks: Argentinian 'Matambre' Will Kill Your Hunger
Feeling carnal? Do you need to gnaw? Got a bone to chew on?
Here in the water wonderland of South Florida many of us are stampeding to steak houses like, well, like cattle.
According to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association there are 76.5 million servings of beef consumed DAILY (!) in these United States. That’s an average of 67.6 pounds per person, per year. How could anyone have groused, “Where’s the Beef?!” When I think of steak, I immediately think of my father. We lived near Chicago and he loved to take us to the great steak houses of the day. At the legendary Stock Yard Inn down in the city could personally select your own steak from the displays where they rested like automobiles on a hill of ice, protected from beneath by huge chafing dishes and roller rink sized platters. Big, burly, steak loving, Chicago waiters, ‘guy’s guys’ in their great, gold-braided military styled uniforms, and smiling with great, gold teeth would take a branding iron and SEAR your family’s last name initials right on your meat. It shot-gunned my young hunger pangs! The choices were meaty even in their very names; Porterhouse, T-Bones, Club Steaks, Rib Steaks and, of course, Strip Steaks. Dry Aging was not an additional concept that needed to be explained. It was the natural order of things. The only sauces were sour cream for the massive plus-sized baked potatoes and the ketchup for the steak fries. This was an American steak house in the city of Big Shoulders. If one wanted an “au Poivre” or a “Diane” preparation, one would have to have gone to a French restaurant, and trust me, Daddy Van Aken did not “parlez vous”. Hailing from fifty-Five Hundred miles south of Chicago, the Argentines have taken Big Steaks to a level all their own with their wood grilling! Also, I really love the unrepentant devotion to other, even lustier notions of meat eating called embutidos. So prior to a thick rib-eye’s arrival and the sommelier’s departure, (not for too long mind you) … you and your table mates might ‘warm up’ with a mini grill or brasero, brought to your table laden with plump, juicy, burstingly hot chorizos, morcillas, sweetbreads, cow chitterlings and provelta. Gooseneck pitchers of piquant chimichurri will hit the deck along with a warm basket of breads to sauce and stuff the organ meats to your heart’s content. Yes. I really did just say that. When I first arrived from Key West I chanced upon a butcher shop off Bird Road where the Argentine’s featured a preparation of meat called matambre, which, for the uninitiated… means “kill hunger”. Let’s do a little cooking! Get a nice fat flank steak from the thick-armed butcher and bring it home and slash it open like a book. Now grab your meat mallet--You do have a meat mallet I hope-- And bang away on said steak until it is uniformly flat enough to roll. But first we want to marinate it. I use chile oil, herbs, cumin, garlic and Sherry on my version. Slip that and Mr. Flank Steak into a big dish with Ms. Marinade and let them get to know each other overnight... Meanwhile you will be making the stuffing with garden goodness and a hard boiled egg. That’s right. When you go to our website you will see my picture of it perfectly ‘bulls-eyed’ in the orb of roasted meat. Your friends will think you are a magician. And you are. A Big Steak will soon be disappearing to prove it.
Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food